One-Note Wonder

Image attribution: “Piano Lesson” by Cyril Rolando (AquaSixio on Deviant Art).
Thanks to Miranda Kate for a flash fiction inspiration based on the image (as usual, I crept below the 750-word limit by… 0 words, heh).

“Does it talk?”

“No.  She, not it.”

“I heard it used to play with—”

“—She don’t play with anything except her food.  You play.  She corrects you.”

“For an hour.”

“Yeah.  Clock started when I cracked the blinds.”

“Do I record this, or…?”

“Room’s got CCTV.  Listen.  You pay.  That gets you inside—it don’t turn this into a sideshow.”


“—But nothing.  She’s…  I know.  You know.  Instagram don’t need to know.  Want my advice?  Hit the keys, get the goods, and get out.  Ignore the whole owl thing.”

“Okay, but you have to admit—”

“—What?  It’s weird?  Maybe.  You’ll see.  She knows music better than you, me, anybody.  She’s magic, almost.”

“What’s with the bucket?”

“Snacks.  Rats.  My brother-in-law runs a racket for the city.  You never get them all.  Legal, too.  He’s set for life.  They’re dead.”


“The rats, dummy.  She gets awful hungry.  Won’t eat anything other than… I’m trying rats today.”

“There’s blood on its beak.”

“Good.  Maybe she tried one.  Or maybe I missed a spot.  Look, you want to do this thing or not?  You’re here.  You seen her.  If you want to leave…”

“No, I’m… I want to play, I just need—”

“—To grow a pair?  You’ve got… fifty-five minutes left.  Do whatever you want.  What you don’t want to do is blab.  Tell a friend, after.  That’s it.  I get cops knocking?  You and me, we’d have a problem you don’t wanna see me fix.”

“I’m not… you’re sure it works?”

“Yeah.  Alone, she plays real slow—doesn’t have hands.  If you go in there, you play.  Go down the keys.  She’ll stop you.  Then you go from there.  Your choice.”

“But how…?”

“All I know is, people who do it right, they leave that room and they don’t look back.  They make piles of dough.  She can help with jingles, riffs—anything under two notes.”

“Two…  If they hit it big, why don’t they come back?”

“Who?  Look, pal, you’re talking to me, but you’re paying for her.  She’s waiting.”

“Here’s the thing.  See this like I see it.  I come here, dirt broke, and I gamble everything I’ve got, right?  I jump in the cage, and I get this… sound.  I bank an enormous stack of green.  I’m coming back, you know?  So where are they?  The line should be out the door.”

“It ain’t all roses.  She’s tough.  You only get one session, understand?  It’s enough.  I got this ditty in my head from something she done last week.  Gonna put scissors in my ear any minute now.”

“How’s it go?”

“Nice try.”

“Okay, but even if… if this works, there would be a line.”

“I throttle demand.  Ain’t greedy.  Word of mouth.  Appointments only.  Artists and addicts, boss—what can I say?  Don’t set your watch by ’em.  You never know, you know?”

“But we’re talking about—”

“—We’re talking about a hit.  One’s all it takes.  You remember the shark?  Da-duh?  Two notes.  Shower scene, knife going up and down?  One note.  Ree, ree, ree.”

“Okay, but anyone—”

“—Anyone… any big-time joint, they’re paying for that.  It’s instant recognition.  You hear it, you know it.  Hit the jackpot or get lost.  Still got… fifty-three minutes.”

“Anybody try for a symphony?”

“You cracking wise?”

“Sorry, I just… it’s limiting.  You ever go to a county fair?  With the chickens that can—?”

“—Fifty-two.  Go in there and talk about trick chickens.  I’d pay to see what she does, and I’ve seen a lot.”

“Great.  Psycho owl.”

“More like the lottery.  The tickets ain’t cheap, but you’ll get your money back.  Forty-nine.”

“Okay.  Screw it.  Here’s… I never carry cash.  Not this much.”

“Do it right.  You’ll have piles to roll in.  I got to hold onto those.”

“Hey, I need—”

“—No glasses.  Your friend told you, right?  How it works?”

“I… sort of.  He said it was legit.  He’s fielding offers left and right, but he’s in the… he’s blind.  Totally bummed-out.  Down.  They put him on watch.”

“He got greedy.  Take one note and wear the patch.”

“Does it hurt?”


“And there’s no other …?”

“Them’s the rules.  She don’t eat rats.  Look.”

“Great.  So I just go… through here?”


“I only need one.  One note.”

“You’re the boss.”

“Does everyone say that?”

“Yeah, most.”



“Right.  This is goodbye, I guess.”

“I’ll see you around.”




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W. Sheridan Bradford writes horror (All Hallows, The Buzzkill) the old west (Rimfires, Sevenfold), contemporary western fiction (Born Again), science fiction (The Wreck of the Molon Labe), and is the author of numerous short stories and poems. Usually found in: Colorado, New Mexico, or Texas.

Show 2 Comments
  • Miranda Kate December 14, 2018, 5:35 pm Link

    Damn I wanted to know what would happen! What a cliffhanger! Nice work. Great piece. Thanks for joining in.

    • Sheridan December 14, 2018, 5:45 pm Link

      Thanks Miranda—have a good one!